Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022)
June 18, 2022 4:27 AM - Subscribe

Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson), a 55-year-old widow and retired school teacher, is yearning for some adventure, human connection... and some sex. And she has a plan, which involves hiring a young sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). Directed by Sophie Hyde; written by Katy Brand (streaming on Hulu)

Emma Thompson plays Nancy, retired and recently widowed, vividly unhappy, and at the limit of her ability to endure her own unhappiness. Completely breaking her strict patterns, she hires a sex worker named Leo (Daryl McCormack), whom she somehow found on the internet. She rents a posh hotel room, where he joins her. The film is broken up into four separate "meetings," and each meeting has its own flow and rhythm, with jagged edges, reprieves and pauses, beautiful and funny moments, as these strangers get to know each other in what is a transparently transactional relationship.

What happens between them is, of course, sexual, but so much else is going on. Fascinating philosophical territory opens up, where things like intimacy, aging, and the importance of sexual pleasure, whether it's with yourself or with someone else, enter the room. There is a moment early on where Thompson, always amazing but at her best here, begins to weep. For her, sex is associated with disappointment and loss. She isn't going to untangle that in a two-hour session. It's not like Leo touches her and she melts instantly. Nancy thought she hired Leo to have some sex. She didn't realize the focus would be on pleasure, whatever form that pleasure takes. She has no idea what pleasure even means.
posted by I_Love_Bananas (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I loved it. And didn't expect to. Emma Thompson is miraculous, and "Leo" was fantastic too. Really it felt like watching a (very good) play. Not that that matters.
posted by DMelanogaster at 8:45 AM on June 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

(It's actually not going to be Oscars eligible, alas, because it's streaming in the US. The Covid-era "okay to stream first or only" rules were rescinded for 2022.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:17 AM on June 19, 2022

We watched this tonight and were so impressed and delighted with all of it. Emma was so good, and, yeah, that last little look on her face. Perfect.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:47 PM on June 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

I loved that, after everything, Nancy achieves her main goal on her own. I had to cheer for her.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:15 AM on June 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

There is a cute touch during the couple’s first meeting. Nancy ducks into the bathroom to change, and the lingerie she brings is a nearly identical floral pattern as the frumpy blouse she’s wearing.

It’s not made out to be the focus of the scene, but it’s a subtle detail left there for the viewer to absorb, and speaks volumes about Nancy.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:47 AM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

My goodness. This movie is so tremendously good. We watched it last night and I can’t stop thinking about it. The chemistry and rapport between the leads is just stellar. Can’t recommend this highly enough!!!
posted by obfuscation at 4:08 AM on July 3, 2022

Just watched this. So wonderful, and that last scene brought tears to my eyes - and I don’t even know why.
posted by bunderful at 7:42 PM on December 1, 2022

The actors are exceedlingly charming, the script has a lot of wit, there are some lovely touches. I loved the scene where the heroine apologizes to the former student she slut-shamed and I love how she finally accomplishes the goal she didn't even dare to put on her to-do-list, on her own. It's supposed to be a film about pleasure, about liberation, about empowerment, about aging, about self-discovery, and as such, it works really well.

But for me, this is also a film about having a job that requires building relationships, and about the importance of good boundaries in professional relationships. More precisily, I think, the movie has a lot to say about teaching. We see that Leo is a god teacher, exceptional really, and our heroine maybe hasn't been. The main quality you need to bring to the job, for me, is respect, a lack of judgment - someone willing to learn something new always makes themselves vulnerable; is going to make mistakes, is going to be frustrated, disappointed, easily discouraged. Needs to be reassured, needs to be able to trust, needs to be met with grace. Leo's got that.

The heroine, as far as we get to see, not so much. She can talk about people with such casual contempt. Maybe that's just her style, her brand of wit - it is, after all, most often directed towards herself. Maybe it's supposed to be part of the liberation, refreshing honesty. She needs to call her son boring and her daughter a fuck-up to free herself of the shackles of motherhood. Fine. But part of it is that this character is your typical middle class snob. So when the waitress in the café where she meets up with Leo for the last time reveals herself as a former student, she says "Well I can't have taught you much, if this is where you ended up". And she's not even trying to insult her. She's the type who'd be shocked if you took offense. "Oh no, no, don't you see, it's a diss on myself!".

I do actually like that part - the heroine is revealed, gradually - a beautiful woman, a sensuous woman, a powerful woman. But a mediocre mother, a mediocre teacher. That can also be a good story for a heroine. It's not always about how well you serve others. And the heroine does learn. She learns to appreciate the value of sex work. She does apologize to the waitress. Maybe her contempt for others sprung from her contempt for herself, and she can only free herself of the former as she frees herself of the latter, or vice versa. That's a point worth making.

But it could be made a bitter I think, if the heroine had to take some more accountability. Because she's horribly out of line, not just with the waitress, also with Leo, and he forgives her too readily. My friend, who I saw the movie with, thinks he should have never agreed to that last appointment. She gasped in horror, when the heroine confessed to the stalking and was fully on board with Leo's outrage. She was also very upset, when Leo eventually opened up about his mother. "Why does he tell her? He shouldn't need to tell her! She has no right to ask!"

I get why the characters does it. She's told him a lot of personal stuff, she's had a life-changing experience with him - and now she wants to feel like she can make some difference for him too, she longs for resonance, reciprocity. But we already this wonderful scene where he describes, downright lyrically, what he gets out of this job, this feeling of having a meaningful impact on others, resonance, reciprocity. There's a quiet tragedy in how she can't be satisfied with that. (And she wouldn't be the first to fail this way, it's an old story for a reason, it should be a modern version of Lohengrin - if magic enters your life, acept it with grace; don't kill the vibe by asking for a name).

But sadly, this version doesn't go for the Lohengrin-ending. To the last moment, the heroine is not quite made to understand how upsetting it must be when a client starts to cross explicit boundaries. Point is, not wanting a client to know your real name is a very basic, reasonably boundary, even if there's no traumatic backstory of maternal abandonment. It's not about shame over your profession, it's about good professional boundaries and a completely legit need for privacy. I guess I have a bit more compassion for the client's delusions than my friend, but I hate how the narrative seems to vindicate her, by revealing that Leo has indeed a traumatic history, that part of his emotional outburst was triggered by this trauma, that her making him face that actually help him overcome his shame and reconnect with his brother. I wanted to see a final scene where he comes home to his loving mother who cooks him spaghetti or something, and we can conclude that is was all just a story to get this over-involved client off his back. In my mind, that's the ending anyway; Momma's home-cooked spaghetti are waiting as the credits roll.
posted by sohalt at 7:30 AM on August 6

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